What is True Discipleship?

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? James 2:14-16 NIV

There are some people who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior but do little to act on their belief (Jas 1:27; 2:14-26). Others actively follow Christ: they live as true disciples, passionately pursing the Lord’s will in all things. These are the ones who take their relationship with Christ seriously.

Ask yourself: Are you merely a believer or actually a follower of Jesus? Trusting in Jesus Christ is fundamental, but it’s only the first step. Your primary purpose is to take a lifelong journey following in the Lord’s footsteps – honoring him with your action and speech and increasing in Biblical wisdom.

A Christ follower’s life is summed up in the phrase, “Complete obedience.” In fact, Jesus defined true Christians as those who prove their love for him by obeying his teaching (Jn 14:23). When it comes to obeying God, our only response is I will or I won’t. It’s tempting to say, “I will, but…” as some of Jesus’ would-be disciples did, but that’s a roundabout way of saying no (Lk 9:57-62). Followers remain faithful to the Lord’s plan whether doing so is easy or hard. Not only that, but they proclaim him in both blessing and calamity, and they follow him even when they are uncertain where he is leading.

Followers pursue the Lord because they know that the reward is a deeper, more passionate relationship with him. They are not just waiting to spend eternity with God in heaven; eternity begins now, as they accompany him on the righteous path he has set before them.

Matthew 22:14 says, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” The call has gone out, and it is still going out. Whatever your background, you are being called to Christ – away from sin, to him. Some take the call seriously. They are the ones who take the time to hear from God They are the ones who actually do something. They call has gone out, and some will allow following Jesus Christ to shape their entires lives.

Jesus makes it clear that being called as one of his disciples has a price. He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). To the original disciples, crosses represented torture, physical abuse and death. Jesus’ reference to “take up the cross” must have sent waves of fear through the ordinary people whom Jesus had called into extraordinary lives.

The conversation that followed could have gone something like this: “First you asked me to leave my business and my family to follow and learn from you, and now you’re telling me that you’re going to die and that I have to deny myself and follow in your steps! Don’t you think that’s asking a bit much?”

But Jesus responds: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39). It was only as his disciples acted on Christ’s call that the true significance of his words became a reality for them. In time, confusion would disappear, and they would experience the exhilaration of giving their lives totally for the cause of Christ.

So the question remains: Are you a believer in Christ or are you a follower? Remember, being called to Christ means being called away from sin. That requires repentance. Realize you have sinned – repent and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Then study God’s Word and be obedient to it. Listen for God’s direction in his Word and do it. Expect exciting days ahead as you life your calling.

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